I was chatting with a friend recently and we got onto the topic of how I’m travelling. She’s a dear friend and someone I really trust and so I can be open to her, can be honest about how I’m really doing: the nightmares, the anxiety, the ongoing price I pay for something I can’t help. And she said something surprising, although in retrospect I don’t know why I should be surprised: “Don’t you hate him for what he did to you?”
I respect my friend enough – and I respect my own integrity enough – that I genuinely considered the question before I answered it. Do I hate him? Do I hate the person who hit me and hurt me, who caused me to still question my worth, who valued me so little that he risked my very life with a furious kitchen knife held to my throat. Do I hate the person who defrauded me of health and happiness, who raped me, and whose actions I’m still coming to terms with?
I’ve been close to hatred at times, I do know that. And I’m certainly not anywhere near the point of equanimity in my feelings towards the man who should have loved me, but who abused me instead. I have felt that rage, that dark vortex with such potential for destruction, and I have feared it, and clung to what’s kept me from it. I’ve feared the bitterness that’s threatened at times to overwhelm me even as I’ve held tightly to those parts of me strong enough to keep from being swept under.
But hatred? I’m not sure. Because it seems to me – those times I’ve felt it, on a level beyond anger and below my carefully-controlled consciousness – that hatred is something filthy and evil. Something old, older than me, older than any human society or force. Something that’s been in the depths of humanity since time immemorial.
A devil, a demon. Satan. Joss Whedon calls it the First Evil (Buffy wins that battle, by the way). The source of human darkness, of brutality, of the thousands upon thousands of horrific things that human beings to to each other without a second’s hesitation. That same vortex, that force which I felt in myself and from which I recoiled – it’s the same force which allowed the Holocaust, the Cambodian killing fields, the siege of Sarajevo, every act of genocide, of rape, of murder, of violence. Every act of dehumanisation is fuelled by that same power – and, whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we’ve all got access to it. It’s part of all of us.
But no, I don’t hate the one person I’d be quite justified in hating. Because if I’ve got access to that darkness, I’ve also got access to light too. If the force of destruction exists within me, so does the Source of love.
It’s not quite that easy, of course – because I am angry, and I should be, and because that force is a part of being human. But there’s a difference between anger and hate – and the idea is to choose the one that doesn’t make the world darker and a little more dangerous, and to choose the one that won’t sweep me up in its voracious rampage, and to choose the one that means I can still be a good person.
Because choice is one thing – it turns out, one of many – he didn’t take from me.